Unless you are Coca-Cola or Frito-Lay, you will probably not be developing creative advertising for the Super Bowl commercial slots. In fact, both have reduced their outbound marketing strategies in favor of social media campaigns (“Share a Coke;” “Do Us a Flavor”). They are now engaged in inbound marketing by getting consumers to actively participate in their campaigns – attracting people through inbound marketing.

Businesses that want to generate leads would do well to take their cues from these “big boys.” Today’s consumers do not want to be found and sold to – they want to do their own research and participate in finding you. Once they do, it is your job to develop the relationship that nurtures that lead into something more.

Effective lead generation through inbound marketing, then, becomes the primary task of marketers. Here are six strategies to generate those leads and begin the relationship-building process.

1. Content Marketing

By now, this term has become a “household word” among marketers. They know they have to generate lots of content that engages the right audience, keeps them engaged, and provides enough value that targets move to landing pages on the business site, trust the company, and then provide their contact information as a result. In fact, they do not even have to provide their contact information. Based upon their behavior on your site, you can then re-target them with content that speaks specifically to their needs and interests.

When content is consistent and relevant and valuable to the target market, they will come.

Traditionally, marketers have thought of blogs as the only and most important place for content. Not so. While popular blogs certainly attract readers and followers, other content venues are just as important – e-books, guides, how-to and explainer videos, podcasts, and obviously social media posts – all comprise methods by which content can be delivered. Smart marketers use them all, because they:

  • Attract targeted visitors to their sites
  • Engage visitors and entice them to provide their contact information
  • Allow marketers to nurture leads on a personal level
  • Promote social sharing, which brings in more leads
  • Improve brand awareness and trust

Creating the Right Content/Choosing the Right Distribution Channel

This of course is the crux of the matter. If you have defined your target audience, and you know where it hangs out online, you should know what it values, what information and education it wants, and what will entertain and inspire, then you will know the type of content to produce and where to publish or offer it. The key to content is not to sell; it is to build interest and foster relationships. Research your demographic, check out your competition and give your audience what it values and needs.

Each piece of content should have an objective. Before you create any content, define your objective – are you going to educate? Tell a story? Inspire? Entertain? All of these are worthy objectives. What is not a worthy objective is selling your product or service.

2. Your Website

Your website should be a lead generation tool in itself. All content you post elsewhere should drive people to your site, where lead generation can occur, if done right. And if your SEO strategies are effective, traffic comes from organic searches. Here is all that your website should be doing to generate leads:

  • If you rank well in SEO results, inbound traffic comes – your job then is to hold them there.
  • Grab attention as soon as visitors hit your landing page
  • Have forms that are easily completed with as few fields as possible, yet enough to use in your nurturing process. Have a goal for each form on your site – a valuable download, an email/newsletter subscription, etc.
  • Provide a blog as a source of great information, entertainment, stories, etc. Engage with visuals and videos amidst broken text.
  • Create engaging calls to action for your conversion buttons. The words “Click Here” are boring. Entice with something like “Get Your Guide Now.” Your goal is to give the visitor a reason for clicking the button.

Now, about the site itself. If visitors find it appealing, they will tend to stay awhile; if visitors find it easy to navigate, they tend to stay awhile; if visitors can get a form filled out quickly, they will tend to do it. If visitors are not asked for too much information, they will fill out a form (e.g., email addresses are usually happily surrendered; phone numbers are not).

SEO is a topic for another blog post – however, if you do not feel as though you are effective in SEO strategies, get a good guide that will walk you through the best tactics.

3. Email Lists

Of course, you already have conversions from visitors if they have signed up for your mailing list. But how you use these leads in your email campaigns will make all of the difference in nurturing that lead through the process of becoming a customer. Your email campaigns can do two important things:

  • Build relationships with existing subscribers so they stay with you and choose you when they are ready to purchase.
  • Provide shareable content that your leads will then send out to their communities and generate more leads.

Here are just a few tips:

  • Give your subscribers share buttons within each email
  • Use CTA’s to drive readers to landing pages for value that you offer (only one per email).
  • Create subject lines that scream “Open Me.” This is surely an art, but one that you must master.

4. SMS Marketing

Like email, if you have a lead’s phone number, you have already achieved a great conversion. SMS lead nurturing is rapidly becoming an amazingly effective marketing tool. In fact, they are beginning to replace email campaigns. When smart phone users can receive a quick text message from you regarding some new of value that you are offering, along with a link to the landing page to get that value, they are far more likely to link over to you. Why? Because research is now showing that texts are far more widely read than emails. They are fast and recipients can respond just as fast.

5. Using Your Landing Pages

Your website may have several landing pages, dependent upon where the visitor is “inbounding” from. The purpose of every landing page is to generate leads, and they must focus on that above all else. In exchange for surrendering their information, the visitor receives something of value.

Here is how to optimize your landing pages:

  • Connect with that visitor within the first few seconds. What value or benefit are you offering? Make it attractive and a means by which that visitor can solve a problem.
  • Each landing page must be for a specific purpose. Visitors who want a “how-to” video are not the same visitors who want a list of websites on healthy diets. Making multiple landing pages takes work, but having a single, generic lead generating page with multiple purposes will turn people away – fast.
  • Make your landing pages very simple. The visitor has landed there for a purpose. Provide the value, present the lead form, and leave it at that. Design should be minimal with only what is required, and yet it should be attractive and at least contain your logo and brand name. In short, restate the problem to be solved, present the solution (download, etc.), show the value, and deliver what you promised. Include a privacy statement and any guarantees that might generate more trust.

6. Deploying Social Media Marketing

If you have been in the marketing business for any time at all, using social media is a “no-brainer.” It is how you develop relationships, followings, and shares. It is also a lead generation tool, because it drives traffic to your site, specific landing pages, and your blog. Marketers who use social media to promote products and services fail; marketers who use social media to establish trust and relationships succeed.

  • Create shareable content. It can be humorous, inspirational, provide value of some sort, etc. – posts must be something that readers want to share. Foundr Magazine, an online publication for startup entrepreneurs, tweets several times a day with photos and inspirational messages, contests, etc. ModCloth features its customers as its models; Toms Shoes pulls at heartstrings with photos and videos of needy children being fitted with new shoes.
  • Use the right platforms. You cannot be everywhere. Choose carefully based upon the research of where your demographic is.
  • Post at the right times. Again, the research has been done. Use it.
  • Track the popularity of your posts and the amount of inbound traffic you are getting from them. Google Analytics will provide the reports to you.

Plenty to Chew On

This is an information-filled post, to be sure. Many of these strategies you may already be working, at least to some extent. Hopefully, though, you will have some new information that you can use to improve what you already do. And one last piece of advice? Keep current with the research, think about branching out into SMS, and be as creative as you can.